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(West Memphis, AR) Crittenden County voters will vote on whether to add a one percent sales tax to help fund the Crittenden Regional Hospital.

The hospital is in debt more than $20 million.

The one percent tax is expected to generate $6 million a year over five years, for a total of $30 million.

“That hospital is a vital part of our county to be able to keep functioning and we need the hospital here,” said Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless.

Friday, county leaders voted to hold the vote, which will be on June 24th.

The privately owned hospital has been in financial trouble for years.

Wheeless says county officials didn’t know about the financial bleeding until a few months ago when they were asked to throw the hospital a life line.

The one percent tax increase would also take the county’s total sales tax to a whopping 11 percent.

“We are already higher than Memphis. We are ten and a quarter. To go up much higher than that will affect everybody’s receipt, I believe,” said Tara Barton, owner of Merry Magnolia Store in Marion, Arkansas.

Still, she doesn’t want the hospital to close.

“I would hate to see our sales tax go up, but I would hate to lose the hospital worse,” Barton said.

“People need hospitals. It’s a lot of things that happen right here in our community,” said Dyone Lunzy of West Memphis.

The hospital says a shortage of  doctors, lower reimbursements, and more poor patients led to the troubles.

We are told the 150-bed hospital only uses about 40 beds.

Between now and June 24th, expect to see plenty of ad campaigns for and against the sales tax increase, but in the end, the final decision on the future of the hospital will be up to the voters.

If the sales tax increase passes, collections will start July 1st and the hospital will begin getting payments from it in October.

The hospital does have an affiliation with Memphis based Methodist Hospital.